Thank you very much for having me here. It's my honour to speak to you today.
Since the national security law came into force on June 30, it has already been used to suppress freedom of expression and assembly on the streets, in the classroom and overseas. Over 30 protesters and activists have been arrested. Democracy itself has also been targeted by this new law. The Hong Kong government and Beijing officials in Hong Kong have used the threat of the national security law to quash dissent and undermine democracy by disqualifying 12 pro-democracy candidates who won primaries, and have threatened over 600,000 Hong Kongers who turned out to vote for those candidates in the primary elections. They then chose to postpone the elections.
Our concern now is that by invoking emergency colonial-era ordinances, Beijing will suspend democracy in Hong Kong indefinitely.
The new law is not limited to quashing opposition at the ballot box or on the streets. The introduction of national security education and encouraging students and teachers to monitor each other, as well as the firing of pro-democracy academic Professor Benny Tai, are blows to academic freedom.
Similarly, the arrest of Jimmy Lai, the owner of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, with 200 police officers raiding his headquarters, is a blow to press freedom.
Meanwhile, tech firms like Telegram, Facebook, Google and WhatsApp are in a standoff with authorities over the requirement that they co-operate with the police data requests in national security cases. These developments demonstrate the chilling effect the national security law is having on all sectors of Hong Kong society.
Recently, the U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong launched its inquiry report into human rights abuses by the Hong Kong Police Force. In direct breach of international humanitarian law, the police arrested dozens of medical workers who were trying to help injured protesters.
This does not only matter to Hong Kongers whose freedom has been stripped away; it matters to us in Canada. With over 900,000 Hong Kong Canadians living in Canada and Hong Kong, Canada has a special relationship with Hong Kong. If Canada, with its long history of defending human rights, is not willing to stand with like-minded partners in defence of Hong Kong's freedoms, then the values we believe in will be degraded, along with Canada's standing in the world.
The announcement by the Beijing government of a list of individuals overseas wanted under the national security law validates the authorities' worrying claim to overseas jurisdiction, its ability to target foreign nationals, and the fact that the law will be applied retroactively. As we have a large Hong Kong Canadian community in Canada, it is extremely concerning that six Hong Kong activists living in the U.K., Germany and the U.S. are all wanted under the law. One of the activists in question is a U.S. citizen who has lived in the U.S. for over 25 years. These activists are accused of inciting secession and colluding with foreign forces. The maximum penalty is lifelong imprisonment.
The law also harms Canada's business interests in the region. A recent report published by Hong Kong Watch, “Why Hong Kong matters”, found that the city, as a financial centre, continues to be indispensable to Chinese and international business, precisely because of the one country, two systems model, which guarantees freedoms and the rule of law.
Hong Kong remains the most important financial conduit between China and the rest of the world, and a key hub for Canadian businesses. Strip away the city's rule of law, and one of Asia's most important hubs will collapse. China must step back from the brink.
Before turning to what we should do, we must dispel a myth. It is often said that China is Canada's second-largest trading partner and Canada cannot afford to upset China, but let's look at the numbers.
In 2019, Canada's exports to China were 3.9% in total. Canada does not rely on China. The biggest trading partner of Canada is, of course, the United States, with 75% of Canadian exports going to the U.S. The second-largest trading partner of Canada is the European Union. A recent report published by the Henry Jackson Society found that, among the Five Eyes countries, Canada is the least reliant on China as an export market. The Canadian government should not hide behind the myth instead of standing up for its values.
Canada is not dependent on China. Canada must find its backbone and stand up to the CCP. There are three ways to do this: sanctions, diplomacy and refuge.
In response to the violation of the Joint Declaration, the U.S. government last week imposed sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials, including Carrie Lam. This follows the enactment of the financial sanctions bill, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which enables the government to sanction individuals and financial institutions that have violated Hong Kong's autonomy. Canada should join them.
At Hong Kong Watch, our reasoning for supporting targeted sanctions has always been threefold. First, we recognize that targeting Hong Kong and Chinese officials is a deterrent, ensuring that continued violations of human rights are met with a steep personal price that includes the restriction of travel and financial penalties.
Second, despite the claims of a Chinese official that sanctions will have little personal impact, as he doesn't have a U.S. bank account or travel to the U.S., we know that they work. One executive with a China unit of a major European bank described all officials on the U.S. sanction list as “toxic” in the eyes of international banks. This is not to mention that, since many of the officials named on the list have family with foreign citizenship, a visa ban would create a considerable obstacle for them. The partners of Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and the Secretary of Education Kevin Yeung have Canadian citizenship, and the Secretary for Home Affairs, Caspar Tsui, owns property here in Canada.
Third, target sanctions fall into a wider discussion about the international community's response to the Chinese Communist Party's expansionist strategy.
For Hong Kong, it is five minutes to midnight. We hope the Canadian government will play its part and have the courage to follow the example set by the U.S. and enact sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act in defence of Hong Kong's rights and freedoms.
For too long, Carrie Lam and CCP officials have been able to act with impunity in suspending freedoms and violating human rights. Of course, Magnitsky sanctions on their own are not the whole answer. They should be part of a wider approach that includes the offer of a lifeline to Hong Kongers, especially the young protestors who are in need, and the endorsement of the creation of a UN special envoy/rapporteur for Hong Kong to monitor and report on the situation on the ground. This would cover a comprehensive strategy of diplomacy, refuge and sanctions, which should be the bedrock of Canada's response with international partners to the crisis in Hong Kong.
Some who favour placing trade over human rights may argue that these measures will have little effect with Canada undertaking them alone and will serve only to antagonize China; however, Canada is not alone. In the last month, we have seen countries across the world suspending extradition treaties with Hong Kong and implementing export controls.
I am certain that if Canada chooses to act, it will find itself in close company with its key allies from the free world. It's time to take action. It's time to stand up for Hong Kong.
Thank you very much.